A provisional XV for Scotland's under-18s has been chosen ahead of a match with England next month to open the competitive campaign, but those players will first face a Scotland District under-18s team still gripping to aspirations of forcing their way into the national side. When the tackles start flying in at Laigh Bent, it will not just be about getting possession of the ball.
The fixture has been created to ensure the national side are given a stern and uncompromising test before the competitive matches begin - with England visiting Laigh Bent on March 9. Yet it will also offer the District players a chance to prove themselves in direct competition to their opposite numbers for Scotland. Eddie Pollock, the Scotland under-18s coach, will be looking on closely from the sidelines.
It is not simply an empty gesture either, since Tommy Spinks, the London Scottish back-row and now Scotland Under-20s captain, whose powerful performance for the District side two seasons ago led to a call up to the representative set-up. "We have picked an initial squad of 24, with an eye on the England game in a fortnight's time," said Pollock. "It's our last opportunity to run the rule over everyone in like-for-like positions.
"All of the players in the district squad will look at this as an opportunity to force their way in and, although we've picked an initial squad in the XV-side, it's certainly not in tablets of stone. There's still a lot to play for which will create a very competitive situation."
The match brings to a head the preparations for the under-18s, whose programme also comprised double-header, pro-aligned, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors derbies. "The programme's been good," Pollock added. "We have managed to get through a lot of work."